The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series


My apologies to readers. This stuff is coming in faster than I can retell it. For, retelling it is all I can do, not being on the front lines of this or any significant conflict. Here is a bit of history:

“[A]nother scalp.” Now, that’s a cheeky way of putting it. We’re back to counting coup, are we? All right, if Mr. Saleh and his “two associates” are willing to participate, and it appears they were, then that’s the name of the game. Here is a photo of Mr. Saleh in one of his better moments, that is, alive. Considering the nature of his departure, the most recent photos are likely undecipherable.

Given all of that, who’s next up for (and off of) the ever diminishing list of those who cannot obtain life insurance at any price? Today’s face on the milk carton formerly belonged to Charaffe al Mouadan. The news is from CNN:

(CNN)The U.S.-led coalition killed multiple figures within ISIS senior leadership over the last few weeks, including an operative closely linked to the ringleader of the November attacks in Paris, the spokesman for the coalition said Tuesday.

Col. Steve Warren said 10 senior ISIS leaders operating in both Iraq and Syria, “including several external attack planners,” with designs on attacking western targets, had been killed in airstrikes.

Charaffe al Mouadan, a Syrian-based member of ISIS with a “direct link” to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian-born ringleader of the terror attacks in Paris, was killed in a December 24 airstrike, and was “actively planning additional attacks against the West,” Warren said.

See the screen shot above. The person on the left is Michael Weiss. Along with co-author Hassan Hassan, Weiss earlier this year released his book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, which was recently reviewed here.

The unfortunate on the right is the late Mr. al-Mouadan, whose responsibilities within the organization, now known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, are not immediately clear. We do know that, while Daesh-inspired gunmen were creating mayhem and killing people at the Paris Bataclan nightclub last month, Mr. al-Mouadan’s name was batted about. That may not seem like much to most folks, but in these edgy times it’s enough to get your name stenciled on the warhead of a Hellfire missile.


Along the lines of counting coup, the Obama administration, feeling some heat recently from the loyal opposition, has decided it’s not enough to just walk the walk, they need to talk the talk. To that end, along with the announcement of Mr. al-Mouadan’s vaporization, they also put on display the scalps of nine others brought to heavenly reward this month:

Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said a militant commander named Charaffe al Mouadan was killed in the Dec. 24 strike.

Warren said a total of 10 ISIS leaders have been killed in airstrikes over the past month.

They were killed mainly by drone strikes in Iraq and Syria. He offered few details, but said at least two of those killed were linked to the Paris attacks. He said one was directly tied to those who planned the violence in Paris and was actively planning other assaults against the West. Most appeared to be mid-level leaders.

Warren said that one of the others killed was from Bangladesh but spent time in Britain and was a hacker for ISIS and coordinated anti-surveillance technology.

A Daesh (ISIS) hacker. “[C]oordinated anti-surveillance technology.” That’s what it takes for the government to spend $110,000 of your tax money on a Hellfire launch. This may raise concerns among Mr. al-Mouadan’s former assciates. What is the United States military going to find a budget for once all the Daesh hackers and coordinators of anti-surveillance technology are gone? I’m thinking the jihadist in charge of rounding up women sex slaves it going to be thinking twice about his life decisions. And he’s going to be shopping for life insurance. Were it only available.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m sure I saw this when it came out in 1977, and I have watched it at least twice more on DVD. I will be forgiven for not watching it again as I write this review. It’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, written and directed by Steven Speilberg and released by Columbia Pictures. It features Richard DreyfussFrançois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, and Cary Guffey. I’m getting these details from Wikipedia. Images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies.

The opening scene is a blinding sandstorm in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. A team of scientists has been called to the discovery of the infamous Flight 19, five TBF Avenger war planes that disappeared off the east coast of Florida in December 1945. After 32 years they are in like-new condition. Here we see one of the team being hoisted up to peer at the engine to get its serial number.


I was not familiar with the Avenger, but was somewhat familiar with other Grumman aircraft. My thinking is that aircraft design departments go with what works, which is why this reminded me of the S2F.


The title of the movie comes from the UFO culture:

  • Close encounter of the first kind: Visual sightings of an unidentified flying object seemingly less than 500 feet away that show an appreciable angular extension and considerable detail.
  • Close encounter of the second kind: A UFO event in which a physical effect is alleged.
  • Close encounter of the third kind: UFO encounters in which an animated creature is present.

Having established that, the plot evolves.

First there is a close pass by an airliner of a UFO. Nobody wants to file a report. Then, in Muncie, Indiana, power company lineman Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) is seen with his family, said family apparently disintegrating due to Roy’s lack of maturity (obsession with play toys, neglecting the interests of his three children). The area experiences a sever power outage, and Roy is called out in the middle of the night to locate the problem.

Meanwhile,  three-year-old, Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey) is awakened when his toys become animated, and there are signs that aliens from outer space have invaded the home. He runs outside to investigate. Single mother Jillian Guiler (Dillon) chases after him.

Roy encounters a UFO on a lonely stretch of road and gives chase in the company service van. He almost runs over Barry, standing in the middle of the road. Barry’s mother saves him just in time. They all stare in disbelief as UFOs come streaking along the road, feet above the pavement.


UFO researchers discuss the recent events. Momentum builds.


Barry Guiler’s home is again visited by the aliens, and this time his mother is unable to save him. Strangely attracted, he crawls through the doggie door and is taken aboard the space craft.


Meanwhile, Roy has gone off the deep end. Completely obsessed by his encounter with the UFO, he becomes fixed on an image planted in his mind. He carves the mashed potatoes into the form. His fearful wife leaves him, taking the children. He raids the planter beds around his house for soil and other debris and reconstructs in his living room the vision in his head. Then he sees the vision on TV. It’s the Devil’s Tower Monument in Wyoming, where the government has blocked all access due to a fictitious poison gas scare.


Roy encounters Jillian in the throng strangely attracted to the site, and together they run roadblocks until they come into view of the monument.


Taken into custody by the military, they are ordered to wear gas masks, due to the poison gas. Roy believes it’s all a bluff, and he removes his mask. No poison gas. He and Jillian scale the monument and come into sight of a landing base constructed by the government. Something ominous approaches from the sky.


The alien craft lands. It is huge, and a large door opens on its bottom. The missing Flight 19 crew along with a host of others mysteriously vanished in the past are disgorged.


The aliens emerge, as well, and they pick from those in attendance some they will take aboard when they leave. Barry is one of those emerging from the alien craft, to be united with his mother. Roy is one of those chosen to leave with the aliens. The craft buttons up and departs. And that’s the end of the movie.

Music by John Williams is outstanding. It’s a gripping plot by Spielberg, but it expands on the definition of absurdity. I need to get started now, because there is a lot to cover.

1. Aliens come from light years away and explore the Earth. What do they do? They disappear a flight of Navy torpedo bombers and keep the crew and the planes for 32 years before returning them intact to Earth. And the logic behind this is?

2. Multiple airline pilots plus an air control center observe a UFO buzzing an airliner. And all decline to file a UFO report? Isn’t that what UFO reports are supposed to be for? When you observe an unidentified flying object that possibly has endangered an airliner, isn’t there an obligation to file a report?

3. Aliens want to make their presence known at a toddler’s home. How do they do it? They make his toys come to life and rattle things in the house. They break into the refrigerator and leave a mess. These are the same beings that can travel light years across space?

4. This is an advanced civilization with technology far beyond what is capable on Earth, and they need to communicate with us by means of a five-note tune. Especially since the aliens are able to communicate to us the latitude and longitude (numerically) of the designated landing point.-104° 44′ 30″ closely approximates the longitude of Devil’s tower in Wyoming (-104° 42′ 55.8″). 40°  36′ 10″ is not so much the latitude (44° 35′ 24″).

5. A reporter at a news conference on UFO sightings and such, “I’ve been in the news business for a long time, and our cameras have never been able to take a picture of a plane crash as it happened, or an automobile accident and get it on the six-o’clock news.” Where was this reporter in 1952 when this was taken?

Popperfoto,The Book, Volume 1,Page: 98, Picture: 5, John Derry's crash, as his D,H,plane hits the ground after breaking the sound barrier in flight, Farnborough air display, 1952 (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Popperfoto,The Book, Volume 1,Page: 98, Picture: 5, John Derry’s crash, as his D,H,plane hits the ground after breaking the sound barrier in flight, Farnborough air display, 1952 (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Effects are fab, but not up to 2001. All actors turned in sterling performances. The little kid came close to stealing the show, but he never rolled this performance into a career.

Don’t drop the soap.

One of a continuing series


I should have been so lucky. Growing up I quickly learned that shit flows downhill, and that if any shit got dished I was going to be the one to get the first serving. We now know there are others less encumbered:

In December 2013, Judge Jean Hudson Boyd sentenced [Ethan] Couch to therapy at a long-term, in-patient facility, after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen suffered from “affluenza” and needed rehabilitation instead of prison. His sentence set off what the New York Times called “an emotional, angry debate that has stretched far beyond the North Texas suburbs”.

What Judge Boyd said, essentially, was that young Ethan was disadvantaged. He did not have the advantage I had growing up. He was denied being told that shit flows downhill, and as a result he was unaware there were consequences for personal actions. Poor kid.

Ethan’s ten-year probation for the crime of killing four people in a drunk-driving collision came to an abrupt end on 11 December, at which time Ethan, along with his mother Tonya Couch, disappeared from the view of the parole board. Gone, as well, were their passports.

The upshot of this unscheduled disappearance is that Ethan is now in violation of his probation and subject to immediate incarceration, with the possibility of having to serve the entire time of his probated sentence in a Texas facility. Tonya Couch, complicit in Ethan’s evasion of the law, now becomes a criminal in her own right, soon to become aware that shit does flow downhill.

Surprise! Unless your name is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, you need to know that you can run, but you can’t hide. Mexican police yesterday announced they had latched on to Ma Barker and her gang of one in the resort town of  Puerto Vallarta. People in this country may not realize it, but Mexico does have a problem with illegal aliens, and the Couch gang seems to be emblematic of these. We can expect to see the criminal pair back in a Texas court before the years is out:

Prosecutors had requested that Couch be sentenced to 20 years behind bars. The judge’s decision to give him probation instead of jail time was controversial at the time, and more so after the recent video appeared to show the teen playing a drinking game at a party.

District Attorney Sharen Wilson has said it “certainly looks like him” in the video, but added that without further investigation, the video alone did not prove he violated his probation.

But leaving the county and not meeting his probation officer are violations, she said.

“The video” in question is one that may or may not show Ethan Couch in violation of his probation by attending a drinking party. That matter is now moot. The offense of evading probation and leaving the country will hopefully dish up some real jail time, and not for just a few months. I remind Ethan Couch about shit flowing downhill, and I also caution him to not drop the soap.

Don’t drop the soap.

One of a continuing series


Have I ever mentioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? I think I have:

So, what does this have to do with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? I’m glad you asked:

In an appearance at Chatham House, the British international affairs think tank in London, Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) declined to answer whether or not he believes in the scientific theory of evolution.

According to Talking Points Memo, the Tea Party favorite and Koch Brothers beneficiaryreplied, “I’m going to punt on that one.”

Keep this just between you and me, but my opinion is the Koch Brothers aren’t getting their money’s worth. Or possibly they are getting exactly what they are paying for.

Penny wise and pound foolish, the brothers earlier this year doubled their bet and covered it with some insurance:

Conservatives are declaring that the “witch hunt” against Governor Scott Walker is over because the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the special prosecutor to stop the John Doe investigation into Walker’s alleged illegal coordinated with dark money groups during his recall elections in 2011 and 2012.

Conservative factions supporting Walker contend no illegal activity was involved in the raising and use of money to thwart Walker’s recall. The activity in question was not the raising of money to defeat the recall, but in the coordination between the campaign managed by Walker and the organization raising the money.

As I understand the relevant law, a candidate, Walker in this case, can manage an organization to raise campaign money. This activity is well regulated by federal and state law, particularly regarding how the money is spent. My presumption is this is to ensure that money raised for political campaigns does not get misused and applied to other endeavors, including padding the pockets of candidates and their associates. Money raised by separate groups, groups not affiliated with the candidate, are not covered by these laws, and they can raise what money they want and do what they want with the money. To ensure these private groups are independent of the candidate, the law has specific requirements banning all sorts of communication and coordination between the candidate and the private groups. In this case the alleged crime is unlawful coordination between Walker and the private group or groups.

The recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling is critical:

Schmitz, who spent 30 years in the Wisconsin U.S. attorney’s office, was appointed by a judge in August 2013 as a special prosecutor to lead the five-county investigation.

“The conduct under investigation clearly violates Wisconsin law and the subpoenas do not infringe on constitutionally protected speech or activity,” he argued.

Schmitz seems to have focused in on R.J. Johnson in their investigation, who is linked with outside groups and played an official, paid role on Walker’s campaign. One of the emails obtained via subpoena was from Walker to Rove, the GOP rainmaker. The full May 4, 2011, message is not being made public but the prosecutor quotes from it.

“Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin,” the governor wrote Rove. “We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like running 9 Congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities.)”

This refers not to Walker’s own recall, but the union-led effort to remove state senators who had backed Walker’s controversial budget to limit the collective bargaining power of public employees. Several big outside groups spent heavily to protect the Republicans.

The Wall Street Journal provides details of the ruling:

As WSJ’s Patrick O’Connor reports, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that neither Mr. Walker’s political operation nor his allies violated campaign-finance laws in the run-up to the 2012 recall vote, a bitter contest that put the Wisconsin governor on the national map.

The court, in a 4-2 decision, ordered prosecutors in the case to “cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.”

Through all of this, nothing seems to say Walker did not break the law. What the court has decided is that the law is unconstitutional:

In its opinion released early Thursday, the majority said a state law outlawing such coordination was “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague under the First Amendment.”

Campaign finance advocates predicted the ruling would relegate most Wisconsin citizens to the sidelines in future elections with anonymous, deep-pocketed donors taking over. The critics also began discussing an appeal to federal courts.

Not clear from all of this is whether the governor believes in biological evolution. The people of Wisconsin seem to have been left with the government they paid for. In the mean time, the Koch brothers saw an earlier bet swept off the table as Walker withdrew from the presidential campaign earlier this year.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


Below is a problem from one of the physics textbooks I reviewed two years ago.

  1. A hair dryer and a curling iron have resistances of 15 Ω and 25 Ω, respectively, and are connected in parallel. They are connected to a 60 V battery. Calculate the:
    1. current through the circuit.
    2. power used by the hair dryer.
    3. power used by the curling iron.

I insisted the problem be reworded. What’s wrong with this problem?

Submit your answer as a comment below. I will provide the answer by Friday if nobody has submitted a correct answer by then.


Mike has hit upon the obvious answer. This problem does not make sense. You do not run a hair dryer off a battery. A hair dryer has an AC motor, and requires an AC power source. The authors of this book are not practical physicists or engineers.

This recalls an issue encountered by physicist Richard Feynman. He took on the job of reviewing physics books for California 50 or 60 years ago. One problem assigned to students in a book went like this:

There are three stars. One has a surface temperature of 5000, another 6000, and another 7000 (Kelvin). What is the sum of the temperatures?

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a continuing series

Here’s another dark one. It’s The Seventh Victim from 1943. It stars Kim Hunter as Mary Gibson. It’s from RKO Radio Pictures and directed by Mark Robson.

Mary Gibson’s stay at Highcliff’s boarding school comes to an abrupt end one day with the announcement that her sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), has quit paying her tuition and has ceased all communication. Mary decides to go to New York to find her sister.


Mary’s first stop is her sister’s perfume company. There she meets the plant manager, Ester Redi (Mary Newton), who announces she is the new owner.


Additional searching turns up a vacant room being rented for Jacqueline by lawyer Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), who turns out to be Jacqueline’s secret husband. The room contains only a chair and a hangman’s noose dangling from the ceiling. Encouraged to visit the Missing Persons Bureau, Mary runs into opportunistic private detective Irving August (Lou Lubin). Together the two break into the perfume factory where the detective is encouraged to check out a locked room he was previously unable to penetrate under guise as an inspector. He is murdered and dies at Mary’s feet. Mary escapes on the subway, only to witness two phony drunks transporting the dead detective’s body.


The plot also involves failed poet Jason Hoag (Erford Gage), and a psychiatrist Louis Judd (Tom Conway). It eventually becomes known that Jacqueline and Judd are involved in a satanist cult. Judd leads Mary to where he supposes Jacqueline is living, and Mary comes face to face with her sister. Her sister abruptly signals for silence and disappears. The hunt for Jacqueline resumes.


We eventually learn that the cult wants Jacqueline dead, since she has come to endanger the cult with exposure. Also, she is the person who killed the detective. Cult members capture Jacqueline and urge her to drink poison. If she will not commit suicide, they will eventually resort to direct means.


Jacqueline doesn’t drink the poison, and she eludes an assassin on the darkened streets, making her way back to Mary’s apartment, where she ultimately hangs herself. And that’s the end of the movie.

Images are from Turner Classic Movies and details are from Wikipedia and IMDb.

This is supposed to be a story with a message: “death is good.” What it turns out to be is a movie based on a convoluted plot, much of which said plot has been left on the cutting room floor to fit into a 71-minute run time. The result is a sequence of jarring episodes stitched together with critical detail omitted. The good news is that in the end it appears that Mary and Gregory Ward declare their love for each other.

This was Kim Hunter’s first film.

It was the best of times, it was the end of times.

One of a continuing series


Bad news haunts our dreams. As much as we dread the coming of the night, the dawn of each new day brings promise of unfathomed disaster. These are fearful times. Our world teeters on the edge of catastrophe. Humanity gropes for answers, which are freely offered:

The cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have all the trappings of Armageddon, but there’s no way to know whether the end times are upon us, evangelist Franklin Graham tells Newsmax. His advice in the wake of the tragedy: Help your fellow man as much as you can, and always be prepared to meet your maker.

“What are the signs of [Christ’s] second coming? War and famine and earthquakes … escalating like labor pains,” says Graham, founder of The Samaritan’s Purse charity. “Maybe this is it, I don’t know. We should pray and be vigilant. The Bible teaches us Jesus is going to return someday. Many of us we believe that day is sooner rather than later.”

“Whether the end is in five years, 10 years, 100 years or 1,000 years, we need to be ready to stand before God,” Graham says in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.

Readers, that is wonderful news. It is immensely reassuring to learn the end may not come tomorrow, which it has not in fact. Reverend Graham’s message is from nearly five years ago, with no end in sight. I should add that Franklin Graham’s dire warning came in conjunction with the announcement his charity was forwarding 90 tons of relief supplies to the stricken region.

According to the CNN Belief Blog article that referenced this, Graham “is paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew.”

Matthew 24 King James Version (KJV)

24 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Plus a bunch of other really bad stuff.

You can forget about the “10 years, 100 years or 1,000 years” business from five years ago. That was then. This is now. The latest from Reverend Graham is less encouraging:

Oct 27, 2015 05:10 PM EDT

The increasing number of natural disasters and global tragedies currently affecting our world, the Rev. Franklin Graham is warning that the second coming of Jesus Christ is definitely close at hand.

In a Facebook post shared on Tuesday, Graham, who is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, identified two specific events in revealing why he believes we are living in the end days: The earthquake that struck Afghanistan and southern Asia on Monday, and the car accident that occurred during the Oklahoma State parade last Saturday.

“A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Afghanistan and southern Asia today and authorities say the number of casualties has already exceeded 200,” Graham wrote. “Pray for those suffering in the terrible aftermath and for those trying to provide rescue, relief, and medical care.”

He added, “This is a very difficult and dangerous part of the world. We know from God’s Word that earthquakes, famines, and wars will increase as the day of the Lord’s return draws nearer.”

In an earlier post, Graham urged prayers for the victims of the car accident at the Oklahoma State parade over the weekend. According to a report from Fox News, a 25-year-old woman crashed into the crowd, causing the death of four individuals, including a two-year-old boy.

Not included in the above is that somebody dinged my car in the parking lot earlier this year.

Depressing as this may be, I take comfort from one thing. People are no longer blaming me.

Short of blaming me, where else can we lay off this mess of human calamity? Others besides the Reverend Graham flash their authority and provide an explanation:

Q: Can you address something we hear many times, which is “Why would God allow natural disasters?”

Lutzer: One thing we have to remember is that the world is fallen. The Bible says that when man fell into sin, all of nature was cursed. In other words, it was impossible for a sinful man to live in a perfect environment of paradise, so all of nature is cursed.

But having said that, it doesn’t mean that God has a hands-off policy when it comes to natural disasters. Many people want to protect God from the clear teaching of the Bible, which shows He is involved in natural disasters. It is not that God causes them, but the very fact that He could prevent them shows that we need to face squarely the fact that natural disasters happen within God’s providence.

Let me give you a few examples. During the time of the plagues in Egypt, clearly God sent those plagues. Then you have the time of Noah; the flood obviously was sent by God. It says regarding Jonah, God hurled a storm into the sea. We must see God in natural disasters. The question, of course, is why does he allow them and what is there to be learned.

Q: What kinds of lessons can we learn from natural disasters?

Dr. Lutzer: Natural disasters are a megaphone from God and they teach us various lessons. First of all, natural disasters show us the uncertainty of life. Thousands of people wake up in the morning not knowing what is going to happen that day, such as the terrible devastation in Haiti and elsewhere. There was a couple that left California because they were afraid of earthquakes. Then when they came to Missouri, they were killed in a tornado. We can’t get away from the reality that life is very, very short and it’s possible for us to delude ourselves.

When we look at the news and see these disasters, it’s like a preview of the natural disasters that will someday come upon the earth. When you look at the second coming of Christ, you find many different natural disasters connected with it.

That was Pastor Erwin Lutzer of Chicago’s Moody Church. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but the Reverend Lutzer has a knack for sorting things out. Here’s a guy not reduced to throwing up his hands and shouting “Shit happens.”


Right Wing Watch tracks the wisdom of such lights as Erwin Lutzer and End Times citizen reporter Rick Wiles. On 13 February of this year Brian Tashman reported on the Reverend Lutzer’s comments. From the audio clip:

For now, the far left and the jihadists have the same goal, namely the destruction of Christianity in America. They share that goal, and they also share the goal of destroying capitalism. So because of that you have the far left and the jihadists in cahoots. That’s why the far left will overlook human rights abuses, Islam’s treatment of women, etc. They’ll overlook all that, but they’ll attack Christianity.

Right Wing Watch summarized further:

Lutzer later explained that Obamacare is helping too many people gain health coverage, and as a result the “administration is encouraging Islamic doctors from all over the world to come to the United States.”

Since Obamacare is pushing doctors out of the practice and abortion rights are slowing population growth, Lutzer said, the U.S. now has “huge immigrant populations from the Muslim countries.”

Like all patriotic Americans, I am deeply distressed to learn that too many people are getting health care in this country. That is not what I had in mind when I voted for Barack Obama, twice.

Erwin Lutzer has elaborated on his thoughts in An Act of God, with a forward by Franklin Graham. I have other projects in the works, so I won’t be reviewing the book any time soon.


Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

Two women meet in Heaven

1st Woman: Hi, Wanda!

2nd Woman: Hi, Silvia! How did you die?

1st Woman: I froze to death.

2nd Woman: How horrible!

1st Woman: It wasn’t so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold, I began to get warm and sleepy and finally died a peaceful death. What about you?

2nd Woman: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating, so I came home early to catch him in the act. But instead, I found him all by himself in the den watching TV.

1st Woman: So, what happened?

2nd Woman: I was so sure there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking. I ran up into the attic and searched and down into the basement. Then I went through every closet and checked under all the beds. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere, and finally I became so exhausted that I just keeled over with a heart attack and died.

1st Woman: Too bad you didn’t look in the freezer—we’d both still be alive.

Terror Plot


Fourteen years ago the United States took a drubbing from the Legion of the Darkness, otherwise known as al-Qaeda. I was impressed at the time that President Bush responded forcefully and appropriately. Rapidly the thinking world aligned with us in this match against religious conservatism. We had the world with us, and we were going to win.

A few days later things started to unravel:

As Europeans wait to see how the United States is planning to retaliate for last week’s attacks on Washington and New York, there is growing anxiety here about the tone of American war rhetoric.

President Bush’s reference to a “crusade” against terrorism, which passed almost unnoticed by Americans, rang alarm bells in Europe. It raised fears that the terrorist attacks could spark a ‘clash of civilizations’ between Christians and Muslims, sowing fresh winds of hatred and mistrust.

Yes, despite what some people in the upper levels of government may think, there is a difference between killing people and winning a war. Events unfolded much as could be expected. The total lack of clue translated into misstep following upon misstep, and, despite being re-elected, Bush finished up his stint, leaving behind thousands of dead American soldiers, $800 billion spent, and the initial flood of goodwill just about dried up.

Then another president took over, and the cycle started over again. The new administration, hopefully learning from prior mistakes, vowed not to repeat them, making instead new ones. And the new president won election for a second term.

Which brings us to the current election cycle, and lots of mouthing from both sides. A host of opposition candidates, challenging Cox’s army in number, is weighing in on the current state of the debacle, especially as this year the murderous squads have started to strike in the United States (and France). What many of these candidates are saying seems based more on political strike effect than on fact. Namely, Daesh (ISIS cool) bred off Bush’s failed vision. Daesh now is Obama’s intransigence come home to roost. Does anybody really know what they are talking about? I looked for answers.

One voice keeps coming through with clarity. I see him pop up regularly on CNN. He’s Michael Weiss:

Michael Weiss is a columnist for Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, and NOW Lebanon. He is also a fellow at the Institute of Modern Russia where he is the editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, an online news and translation journal covering Russian foreign policy and the ongoing war in Ukraine. He has covered the Syria uprising since its inception in 2011 and reported from the front-lines of Aleppo in 2012 for Foreign Affairs magazine.

Explaining the roots, the motivation, the methods of jihadist terrorism, Weiss’s tone is even and nonjudgmental. While he lays the origins of Daesh at the feet of Bush’s missteps in Iraq, he does not go light on the Obama administration as it fumbles the ball critically. When introduced, Weiss is typically listed as co-author of a book. That book is ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. The other author is Hassan Hassan:

Hassan Hassan is Associate Fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, and co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, a NYT and Washington Post bestseller. He is a columnist, and former deputy comment editor, for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi. He focuses on Syria, Iraq and the Gulf States. He also follows Salafist, jihadist and Islamist groups in the MENA region. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, New York Times, among others. He received an MA in International Relations from the University of Nottingham in the UK

What sets these two apart from candidates making shrill talk for your attention is their close involvement. They have been on the case for years, gone to the battle zones, and talked to the people—terrorists, fighters, soldiers, victims. In the current swirl around this topic, it will be worth while to mine from their findings.

I purchased the Kindle edition and read it over the past few days. It’s supposed to take five hours to read, but I kept marking notes and looking up reference. I early blew my five-hour budget. What I will do here is present a few of my take-aways and link them back to references from the book. The reader should leave room for any amount of error on the authors’ part, in which case the reader needs to have a better reference. I will start.

Yes, a typical Daesh fighter is at base a thug of the worst sort. One such was Abdelaziz Kuwan, an edgy 16-year-old from Bahrain. After cajoling his mother into returning his passport to him he went to Syria and drank the Daesh Kool-Aid. He rose through the ranks and collected the brutish rewards:

In ISIS, Abdelaziz discovered new things about himself. He learned that he was violent, brutal, and determined. He beheaded enemies. He kept a Yazidi girl in his house as a sabiyya, or sex slave. She was his prize for his participation in battles against the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces and other Kurdish militias in Sinjar, Iraq, near the Syrian border. According to ISIS’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq, one-fifth of the sex slaves taken from Sinjar was distributed to ISIS’s central leadership to do with as it so chose; the remainder was divided amongst the rank and file, like Abdelaziz, as the spoils of war.

Abdelaziz showed us a picture of his sabiyya. She was in her late teens. She “belonged” to Abdelaziz for about a month before she was handed off to other ISIS commanders.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror . Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

After three years a Syrian sniper ended his life.

The birth of Daesh can be traced through a former Jordanian street criminal named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The recent split between al-Qaeda and ISIS was inevitable ever since al-Zarqawi and bin Laden first laid eyes on each other in Afghanistan in 1999. Allied they helped tear Iraq apart, inspired Shia counteratrocities, and took a bloody toll in American and allied lives. It is this history that ties together the past decade of conflict with the agendas of regimes in Iran and Syria, and without which we cannot truly understand ISIS today. Although it’s impossible to determine which side in the jihadist argument will ultimately win out, or even if there will be a winner, the fact that al-Qaeda has for the past year been in a state of fratricidal conflict with its former subsidiary will surely determine how the West continues to fight both.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror . Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

As the Bush administration began to beat the drums for invading Iraq, al-Zarqawi and bin Laden saw opportunity looming. Al-Qaeda and other operatives began to infiltrate Saddam’s regime and were already on the spot when the occupation began to unravel. The role of Paul Bremer, the man President Bush picked to run the occupation, was, while not crucial, critical.

[Colonel Derek] Harvey estimated that between sixty-five and ninety-five thousand members of Saddam’s other praetorian division, the Special Republican Guard, the Mukhabarat (a catchall term encompassing Iraq’s intelligence directorates), the Fedayeen Saddam, and state-subsidized militiamen were all rendered unemployed with the stroke of a pen after Paul Bremer, the Bush-appointed head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), chose to disband the Iraqi military. Many of the sacked officers joined a nascent campaign to expel their expropriators. Added to their ranks were more disaffected Iraqis, victims of the controversial policy of “de-Baathification” that Bremer announced ten days after his touchdown in Baghdad.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 21-22). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

The situation in Iraq was downhill from there. The Baath Party was primarily Sunni, and it was the projection of Sunni hegemony that drove the insurgency, and al-Zarqawi.

No minor player in this was Bashar al-Assad, nominal president of Syria and dictator extreme. During the run-up to the U.S. invasion he was prescient enough to give harbor to al-Zarqawi, nominally a deadly enemy. He had the foresight to understand how the chips would fall when the Americans came.

Al-Zarqawi, an acknowledged low-brow dabbler in intrigue, early set the tone. Murderous attacks on Iraqi Shiite leaders and destruction of Shiite shrines.

The al-Askari Mosque bombing accomplished in the international imagination what al-Zarqawi had intended and what most Iraqis had already been living through for three years— a civil war.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 59-60). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

Abetting the strife was the installation of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister.

Sunni insurgents paid the Shia back in the same coin. AQI and other Islamist insurgent groups, including ones that would eventually turn on AQI, used every horrific means at their disposal to push the Shia out of Ameriya Fallujah, a Sunni-majority town in western Baghdad that had been choked off and partially starved by the Sadrists. The Iraqi army and police, all answerable to newly installed prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, another Dawa party member, were seen as accomplices to the rampant killings and abductions, which al-Maliki appeared to be tolerating. This was the issue put forth in a classified memo, subsequently leaked, from Stephen Hadley of the White House National Security Council to President Bush in 2006, after Hadley’s visit to Baghdad. “Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas,” the memo read, “intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shiite targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis, and efforts to ensure Shiite majorities in all ministries— when combined with the escalation of [Mahdi Army] killings— all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shiite power in Baghdad.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 60). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

The United States made the pursuit and killing of al-Zarqawi a prime objective, and in June of 2006 a strike by an F-16 fighter on a safe house near  Baqubah put an end to his career but not to the reign of terror and not to the movement that would become Daesh.

Came the new American administration and the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, and AQI (al-Qeada in Iraq)—as the movement came to be known—got the breathing room to rebuild and also the moral justification, fed by the oppression of al-Maliki’s administration.

The Arab Spring, beginning with revolt in Tunisia quickly spread to al-Assad’s Syria, with due cause. Here existed a regime in competition for Saddam’s worst days.

Similar protests soon broke out in Damascus, Homs, Baniyas, and then across all of Syria. The response was widespread state violence. Many peaceful demonstrators and activists were shot by soldiers, riot police, Mukhabarat, and pro– al-Assad militiamen. Others were arrested and hauled off to any number of security prisons. As documented by Human Rights Watch, the secret police used a broad array of torture against their captives, including pipe beatings, whippings, electrocutions, acid burns, fingernail extractions, bastinados, and mock executions. Detainees of all genders and ages were also raped. One woman held at the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus, one of the most feared Mukhabarat prisons in Syria, told the BBC what happened to a fellow female prisoner. “He inserted a rat in her vagina. She was screaming. Afterwards we saw blood on the floor. He told her: ‘Is this good enough for you?’ They were mocking her. It was obvious she was in agony. We could see her. After that she no longer moved.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 132-133). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

Operatives of what was to become Daesh infiltrated into Syria, ostensibly to fight the government. Their ultimate goal was to erase the border between Iraq and Syria and to establish a regional caliphate. Rebel groups unwilling to join the caliphate became Daesh’s immediate enemy, and the government saw them as an ally against the rebels. A strange alliance developed.

We have also seen how the regime chooses to deal with terrorism by infiltration. An early defector from ISIS told CNN’s Arwa Damon in February 2012 he witnessed would-be suicide bombers being told by their battlefield emirs that they were going off to attack regime installations. In reality, they were sent on suicide missions against other rebels. “There were a lot of regime locations we could have taken without sustaining losses of our fighters,” the defector Abu Ammara said, “and we would receive orders to retreat.”

Some of this may owe to ISIS’s financial dependence on selling Syria’s oil back to the regime. As a Western intelligence source told the Daily Telegraph in January 2014, just a month before al-Qaeda formally severed its ties with ISIS, “The regime is paying al-Nusra to protect oil and gas pipelines under al-Nusra’s control in the north and east of the country, and is also allowing the transport of oil to regime-held areas. We are also now starting to see evidence of oil and gas facilities under ISIS control.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 198). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

Politicians on the presidential stump may want to portray Daesh as the prime enemy of America, democracy, and Christianity. The truth is Daesh’s immediate enemy is that vast body of Islamic factions not aligned with them. There is little to deny that Daesh feeds on American posturing to strengthen its message.

In the mean time, the nation of Syria is emptying out. Were events to run their course unchallenged we could see Syria a wasteland with Daesh fighters praying alone in the dark and Bashar al-Assad and Asma al-Assad hanging from lamp posts. Many more hundreds of thousands of civilians would be dead, more hundreds of thousands fled, many to America.

Aside from humanitarian considerations, it’s a thing neither this country nor any other progressive nation can tolerate. As of this writing, the American military and those of other nations are striking exclusively at Daesh forces in Syria and Iraq. A contingent of American special forces has just announced its presence in Syria, working with rebel groups opposed to Daesh. On the other side, Assad forces have been joined by the Russian military in striking the enemies of Daesh in Syria. The Syria of al-Assad is Russia’s military ally in the region, hosting a Russian naval base on its Mediterranean coast. Shiite Iran next door to Iraq is weighing in on the fight against Sunni Daesh, aiming to become a dominant power in Iraq.

So much for the tactical situation. The authors give additional insight into Daesh’s appeal. In this part of the world, civilians turn their eyes from the atrocities as Daesh provides real governance where none existed before. Official corruption gouges the people routinely here as government employees line their pockets through graft and outright criminal enterprise. Real grievances go without redress by governments whose chief concern is power and self aggrandizement. In contrast, Daesh is not slow to settle local disputes in accordance with prevailing Islamic law. Even prominent Daesh leaders who abuse their position are swiftly dispatched with prejudice.

More important, laws apply to ISIS members and commanders too; ISIS has executed scores of members and commanders for unlawfully profiteering or abusing power. In November 2014, ISIS executed one of its leaders in Deir Ezzor after it accused him of embezzlement and robbery. According to the group, the commander robbed residents after claiming they were apostates. Similar stories are commonly told by members of communities under ISIS control. Imad al-Rawi, from the Iraqi border town of Qa’im, who pledged allegiance to ISIS in August 2014, spoke of ten ISIS members who were executed because they sold tobacco they seized from smugglers. “When they raid shops that sell tobacco, they don’t burn the tobacco,” al-Rawi said. “When they raid a house, they also steal from it. The state executed them when it discovered them. None of those members smoked, they just sold the tobacco.”

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (pp. 227-228). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

In our push to defeat Daesh in Syria and Iraq, it remains apparent we are not offering, nor have we the ability to, a substitute government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That’s my take, and it doesn’t come from the authors.

About the book. William Faulkner supposedly said of Ernest Hemingway, he “has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” Weiss and Hassan do this routinely for me. Brush off such terms as Salafism. It really is a word you need to know if you are going to discuss the topic of this book. Hemingway would be comfortable. However, there are terms such as revanchism. That would leave Faulkner chuckling and Hemingway running to his bookshelf. But Don Draper-ish? I had to dig for that.

Nobody needs a proof reader than do I. This does not prevent me from performing the task on others. Examples:

Abu Adnan claimed to have network of smugglers on the Syrian-Turkish border who would help potential fighters enter Syria to join ISIS.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 212). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

That sentence could benefit from an additional, though minor, word.

Today, the regime relies overwhelming on the paramilitary assets of Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps— both US-designated terrorist entities— to continue its grueling war of attrition against a legion of domestic and foreign-backed insurgencies. These of course consist of Islamist and jihadist rebels, some of whom are former prisoners of the regime, if not former accomplices of it in Iraq.

Weiss, Michael; Hassan, Hassan (2015-01-29). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (p. 100). Regan Arts.. Kindle Edition.

The highlighted word could have been converted to an adverb without loss of clarity.

The authors refer to works by others. These may be worth a look on my part. If so, look for additional reviews along these lines.

Keep reading.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I saw this when it first came out and not again until this week on the occasion the 99th birthday of actor Kirk Douglas. It’s the first full-length live action feature produced in Disney Studios here in the United States. Disney’s first ever live action feature was Treasure Island, made in England in response to that country’s requirement for studios releasing productions there. From 1954 this is 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. , based on the Jules Verne story of the same title. And no, that is not a typo. There is no comma in the title.

I’m getting technical details from Wikipedia. Images are screen shots, some from Turner Classic Movies on the cable, some from commercial DVD releases. Ben Mankiewicz introduced the movie on TCM and explained that Walt Disney originally planned the movie to be yet another feature-length cartoon. After seeing some impressive underwater cinematography in wide-screen, he scrapped the cartoon project and produced the movie himself. Consequences of that decision will be explained later.

I have a copy of the book but have not completed reading it. I have read enough to observe considerable differences. In the book Professor Pierre Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his valet Conseil (Peter Lorre) are hoping to sail back to Europe, but are stranded in New York. In the movie everything happens in the Pacific Ocean, starting from San Francisco, where the two Frenchies are aiming to travel to Saigon, in what was then a French colony. This is the year 1868.

Both the book and the movie start out with news reports of ships at sea encountering a huge monster, with disastrous results. Shipping lines are shutting down, because nobody wants to sail the dangerous oceans. Ned Land (Douglas) is one sailor who does not believe in the monster and is ready and willing to make the voyage. The opening scene shows Ned sparing with two fear mongers trying to discourage shipping out. In the movie Ned is a rough and tumble harpooner, and he scraps with the fear mongers. In the book he’s a Canadian harpooner, but still your classic 19th century action hero.


The two Frenchmen are about to abandon hopes of making it to Saigon, when an envoy from the American government approaches them. They will receive passage, in a round about manner, if they agree to go along on an American warship looking for the monster. In the book the name of the ship is Abraham Lincoln, after the president so recently murdered. In the movie there is a portrait of Lincoln hanging on a bulkhead.


And here is the most entertaining part of the movie and the part I best recall after 60 years. It’s Kirk Douglas strumming his guitar and singing:

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo

There was Mermaid Minnie, met her down in Madagaskar
She would kiss me, any time that I would ask her
Then one evening her flame of love blew out
Blow me down and pick me up!
She swapped me for a trout

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo

There was Typhoon Tessie, met her on the coast of Java
When we kissed I bubbled up like molten lava
Then she gave me the scare of my young
Blow me down and pick me up!
She was the captain’s wife

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
‘Bout the flappin’ fish and the girls I’ve loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it’s all true
I swear by my tattoo

If you ever need a reason to see this movie, this is it.


I watched my DVD copy from my recliner chair and was several times startled by flash-backs to other films. When the ship’s company observe the destruction of another ship nearby with the loss of all aboard, we see Conseil shaking his head and muttering “Poor devils.” I am sure director Richard Fleischer put that in deliberately to recap Peter Lorre’s famous line from Casablanca.


Anyhow, the Abraham Lincoln gets rammed by the “monster,” and Ned and the two Frenchies get dumped overboard. Alone and adrift in the ocean they encounter the monster, which turns out to be a submersible vessel of unusual construction. They climb aboard and explore the inside of the apparently deserted boat.

Peering through a glass view port the intruders learn why nobody is aboard. The crew is holding an underwater service for shipmates killed in the encounter with the American warship. And here we can see what got Disney so excited that he switched to live action for the movie. My view is the underwater sequences turned out to be murky and far below acceptable quality. These scenes are a big part of what gets this production review in the Bad Movie Wednesday slot.


Before our heroes can escape the rogue U-boat, the crew returns and takes them prisoner. They meet Captain Nemo (James Mason), known by no other name. And here we get to the theme of both the book and the movie. Nemo is a scientific and military genius with a hard on for the world. He has constructed this amazing U-boat and uses it go sail around and attack vessels he considers the backbone of 19th century evil. The U-boat is named Nautilus, which may not be coincidentally the name of the first nuclear-powered submarine, commissioned the year the movie came out.


Nemo takes Professor Aronnax ashore on an island where slave labor is mining nitrates to be used in making explosives. When a ship leaves the island with its cargo, the Nautilus rams and sinks it, killing all aboard.


This upsets the three captives, of which Ned is desirous of escape. Allowed shore leave on an island, Ned plots his escape, but is soon running for his life from head hunters.


That scene was the occasion of another of my movie flash-backs.


Another was this when the Nautilus encounters a giant squid, and Nemo gives personal combat.


I could not help thinking of Gregory Peck as Ahab. Only Nemo survives, whereas Ahab does not.


Meanwhile, Ned and Conseil have been dropping bottles overboard with messages detailing the location of the Nautilus’ secret base. When Nemo returns the boat to the island, warships and soldiers are waiting. Nemo sets a delayed fuse to detonate the island and rushes to escape on the Nautilus. He is mortally wounded and begins to execute plans to take his boat down to crush depth.

The three captives aboard are having none of that. They overpower the crew and escape in Nautilus’s launch from which they watch as the island explodes. Then we see the Nautilus settle by the stern and slip beneath the surface.


Everybody watching in 1954 just knew this was a nuclear-powered submarine that Jules Verne had imagined 90 years ahead of its time. The island explodes with the power of an atomic bomb, but not in the same manner. There is no blinding flash and spherical fireball characteristic of an a-bomb explosion.

When the movie came out I wondered at the title. 20000 Leagues Under the Sea? No part of the sea is that deep. For readers’ education a league is about three miles, about an hour’s stroll. Reading the book we find the title comes from the captain’s intention to sail a total of 20,000 leagues while under water. The movie doesn’t make it that far. Shortly before the Nautilus completes its last voyage Captain Nemo announces they have so far sailed 10,000 leagues. We go cheated out of the other 10,000 leagues.

I’m going to finish reading the book and find out whether the three prisoners, now adrift in the Nautilus’ launch, ever make it back to civilization. I hope to get that done and to post a review before the year is out.

Keep reading.

Once Upon A Tidy Mind

This could be one of a continuing series.

Apparently we have not heard the last of presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. It definitely is not the first. Ms. Fiorina has visited my shore only recently:

“I do think it’s worth saying,” Fiorina declared, “that people of faith make better leaders because faith gives us humility, faith teaches us that no one of us is greater than any other one of us, that each of us are gifted by God. Faith gives us empathy; we know that all of us can fall and every one of us can be redeemed. And faith gives us optimism, it gives us the belief that there is something better, that there is someone bigger than all of us. And so I think it’s important that we elect a leader of faith and that we elect a leader, as well, who knows that more prayer, not less, is necessary in public life and in all our lives.”

Of course, I found that to be encouraging news. We seem to have no short supply of people of faith. On occasion one too many, it would seem.


Marshall Applewhite was one of my favorites. Engineer and science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp alerted us beforehand:

A few years ago, for instance, a pair of enterprising Texans, Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles, traveled about calling themselves Bo and Peep, or simply “The Two.” They collected a gaggle of followers by promising to carry them all off in UFOs to a happier life on some other world. All The Two wanted was for their disciples to abandon all family ties and give The Two all their money.

The story of The Two seems like a reply, with modern embellishments, of the Millerite agitation of 1843. William Miller, an upstate New York farmer, became convinced by his biblical studies that the world was about to end. When a shower of meteors and a passing comet aroused excitement, Miller gathered a following, who sold or gave away all their property in anticipation of the End. Their logic is hard to follow, since after the End nobody would have any use for property anyway.

Sprague mentioned this in a talk for The North Texas Skeptics in Dallas. He also mentioned William Miller, founder of the Millerites, soon to be known as the Seventh Day Adventists. We should have paid more attention to his caution on Bo and Peep. Leader of faith Bo was in four years to prove less amusing and more deadly than we naively presumed.

To be sure, I made chuckles of Fiorina’s lapse of forethought. I went so far as to expand on the wonders of her tidy mind:

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina won applause in Wednesday’s debate for her vivid description of a live fetus she said was shown in an antiabortion group’s undercover video about Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

But the image she described isn’t in any of the videos released by the antiabortion group. Instead, one video from the group depicts a former employee of a tissue procurement company stating what she says she saw at a Planned Parenthood clinic. There was never any video that depicted, as Ms. Fiorina stated, a live fetus on a table being prepared for organ harvesting.

Truly, a tidy mind is a marvel to behold. It’s a priceless vessel that demonstrates the absurdity of the maxim that you can’t get something out of nothing. Fiorina performs the task tirelessly:

One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class—Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.

Ouch! Doesn’t she wish she had never said that? Apparently not, while disregarding some inconvenient truth:

  • General David Petraeus retired from active service in August 2011. This was after President Obama became so disgusted with the general that he nominated him to be the next director of the CIA, which position he held until such time he passed classified information to a girlfriend journalist of his.
  • President Obama removed General Stanley McChrystal from his command of troops in Afghanistan after he mocked the Army’s civilian leadership in an article that ran in Rolling Stone magazine. The general apologized for this breach in military regulations and resigned from the Army shortly after.
  • In 2010 President Obama nominated Marine General James Mattis to replace David Petraeus as commander of United States Central Command. However, the president did not trust General Mattis’ judgment regarding his eagerness to engage Iran militarily, and the general retired in 2013.
  • General Jack Keane never got a chance to be fired by President Obama. He retired from the service in 2003, nine years before Barack Obama took office, and two years before Obama entered government service in the United States Senate.
  • The president was so displeased with General Michael Flynn that he nominated him to be director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. The general retired in 2014.

Working for President Obama is tough and unrewarding. Every single one of these distinguished military commanders is now out of a job. You can find them at the unemployment office if you want to hear more about what they think of Barack Obama.

I have watched candidate Fiorina deliver, and it is a sterling performance. Never at a loss for words, quick with the optimum phrase, relentless in delivery. Drawing from an empty well. May she always be with us.

Keep reading.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a continuing series

The title says it all. This is going to be a bad movie. It’s Invisible Invaders, released in 1959 by United Artists. About the time this came out I was fresh out of high school and starting my 84-day Navy Reserve boot training, so I missed it first time around. The production company was Premium Pictures. It runs 67 minutes, so I popped it in the player before lunch and had a look. Images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies, and technical details are from Wikipedia.

The 1950s were a troubling time for Planet Earth. NATO and the Soviet Block faced off, each building a nuclear arsenal. Weapons development was at a feverous pitch with dire consequences. Here is the last view of Dr. Karol Noymann (John Carradine) alive. The scene dissolves into a violent explosion, killing the good doctor.


Dr. Noymann’s good friend Dr. Adam Penner (Philip Tonge) has had enough. He announces he is quitting the weapons development program. Along with his colleague Dr. John Lamont (Robert Hutton) and his ravishing daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron), he attends the graveside ceremonies for Dr. Noymann. At grave site we witness a strange phenomenon. The body of supposedly one of the grave diggers disappears and is replaced by an invisible being that hides out in the bushes. After everybody departs the invisible being departs, leaving tracks in the fresh dirt.

That night there is a knock at Dr. Penner’s door, and the body of Dr. Noymann is there, occupied by an alien creature from the moon. He has come with a message. 20,000 years previous his race conquered and eliminated the previous moon inhabitants, and are now becoming distressed by nuclear weapons development on Earth. Earthlings must stop this immediately, or the aliens will destroy the human race. Dr. Penner is given the task of informing the world. And he is given 24 hours.


Penner explains the situation to his daughter and Dr. Lamont. He assigns Lamont the task of convincing the world within 24 hours to stop nuclear development.


Of course, the world reacts with a belly laugh. The 24 hours are almost up, and Lamont and the Penners return to Noymann’s grave site to hold a séance to contact the aliens. Another 24 hours are granted. The aliens will demonstrate their power.

This starts with the accidental crash of a B-17 bomber. Here we see actual footage of a bomber crash. Only it’s obvious this is no accident. The bomber is seen heading straight for cross painted on the side of a mountain. This is an obvious military test using a drone aircraft.


The pilot is killed (of course). An alien inhabits his body and makes its way to the announcer’s booth at a hockey game. The occupants are disabled, and the alien takes over the microphone to make his threats known.


The warning is repeated, and the movie shows many feet of film from natural and man-made disasters. The human race is being wiped out.


Humans refuse to capitulate. Army Major Bruce Jay (John Agar) arrives in a Jeep to take the Penners and Dr. Lamont to a bomb-proof laboratory inside a nearby mountain. An irate farmer (Hal Torey) confronts them with a double-barrel shotgun. He wants their Jeep. All his neighbors have gone zombie apocalypse, and he desperately needs to escape. Approaching zombies distract the farmer, and Major Jay drops him with a single round from his Army issue Colt .45. An alien takes over the body as the Jeep party makes its way to the laboratory.


Inside the lab closed-circuit TV shows an army of zombies prowling the area, searching for the secret lab. In the mean time, romance develops between Phyllis and the major.


Without getting into the details, Major Jay and Dr. Lamont capture the farmer-zombie and haul him back to the lab, where he is locked into a secure chamber. They begin experiments to determine how to make the aliens and their space ship visible.

Dr. Lamont goes defeatist, and a fight ensues between him and Major Jay. When Lamont throws a flask of chemicals it shorts out some circuits, causing all sorts of alarms to go off. The sound of the alarms has a massive effect on the captured alien. It is apparent to the research group that sound is the solution they have been looking for. They concoct a device to produce the required sound, and they turn it on the alien. This makes the alien visible and also kills him.


The next step is for Lamont and Jay to exit the lab in a special truck. They track down the alien space ship as Jay kills a number of aliens. Then he turns the weapon on the space ship and destroys it.


The movie closes with the four from the lab being honored at a session of the United Nations in New York.

Call me particular, but one thing that strikes me a lot in this and other productions is the rendition of supposedly closed-circuit TV. The secret lab has a view of the outside world by means of CCTV. The four in the lab from time to time observe one of the screens to see what’s going on. They see zombies prowling the area. They see multiple views, views that don’t have that staring-eye CCTV look. The appearance is more of staged shots carried off by a film crew.

The plot exhibits additional absence of realism. The pilot of the B-17 is shown dead. Really? The pilot of a B-17 that crashed into the side of a mountain and dissolved in a horrendous ball of fire? And there’s still a body?

There’s more. An alien inhabits the body and walks zombie-like the entire distance from the crash site to an indoor hockey stadium where a game is in progress. He does this without attracting attention until he finally comes up behind the broadcast crew and subdues them with choke holds.

Zombies roam the countryside, attempting to locate the research group and their secret lab. All dressed in suits and ties. Did everybody wear suits and ties, even back in 1959?

Take a good look at Philip Tonge as Dr. Adam Penner. He died before the movie was released.

Bad Joke of the Week

Not yet

Not yet

From Skip. Not really a joke, but a collection of mangled aphorisms.


1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

2. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

3. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

4. A day without sunshine is like, well, night.

5. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

6. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don’t.

7. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

8. The 50-50-90 rule states, “Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.”

9. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

10. The things that come to those who wait may be the things left by those who got there first.

11. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.
12. A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.

13. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.

14. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.


The Age Of Embarrassment

Second in a series

I got started on this topic (see above) through a note that was passed to me by a former classmate from high school. If you have not already, take some time to read through the initial post. It’s about a local climate report from 1922 telling of exceptionally warm weather around Spitzbergen Island, Norway. The gist is we were expected to conclude from reading this 93-year-old report that warming climate has been with us since before the consumption of fossil fuels kicked into high gear. Therefore, there is no basis for claiming that current human activities are contributing to unwarranted global warming.

I posted a link on Facebook and was pleased to get some response. I reconstruct the conversation below. I stated:

Thanks to an old school chum for sending me this:

And I posted a link (see above) to the original post. The remainder of the dialog continues:

Dan Haha!

Don’t forget the 60s – 70s scare about Global Cooling, and the Population Bomb.

John Blanton How can I forget. Unfortunately, anthropogenic global warming is no scare. Some are beginning to be impacted already. Check your friends who live in the Marshall Islands.

USGS Pacific Islands Projects: Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on U.S.…

Dan What’s the proof this is man-caused?

CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air, so it can’t be that.

John Blanton Excuse me. Is that your argument?

Dan That is 1/12 of it.

Is that your answer to my question?

John Blanton Maybe we need to start over. Do you have an argument/statement to make? If so, let’s see it. We will go from there.

Dan Your statement was that Anthropogenic Global Warming ™ is no scare. I reacted to that.

John Blanton I will elaborate. As opposed to a scare, AGW is a for real thing. Hopefully that clears things up.

Dan It clears up your beliefs.

Thank you.

John Blanton Dan, Thank you for thanking me. But back to the topic. The post on Skeptical Analysis was about the failed assault on climate science, and my position is that climate science comes down in favor of the fact that human activity is causing global warming, along with many of the consequences discussed elsewhere.

Your position is either 1) you agree with my position, or 2) you disagree, and you are about to give me the reasons why. You mentioned “CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air,” which is not strictly true, but it does get across the idea that CO2 is denser than air. Then you continue, “…so it can’t be that..”

My background on the density of CO2 is not relevant to the discussion. The number 1.4 is not correct, but Dan’s point is pertinent. CO2 is denser than air. The problem is that Dan never connected this to any argument about the validity of AGW. Given the opportunity, I am sure he will make his point in the future. I continued my response:

If you have evidence that human activity is not responsible for global warming, now is the time to lay it out. You can also post your response as a comment to the blog post.

Remember, my post on Skeptical Analysis pointed out that there is a crowd of people who object to the conclusions of the climate scientists, but they never give any evidence that human activity is not responsible.

Dan You call yourself (or associate yourself with) a skeptic. However, your response appears mostly emotional:

1. The burden is on one positing an assertion to support it. Proving a negative is not required, if it’s even possible (e.g. prove there is no God).

2. When you say “the climate scientists,” it implies those are the only ones, or the only ones that matter. That is not the case. There is a huge and growing group of climatologists who see huge flaws in “Global Warming.”

3. You did not refute the evidence I did give. Why should I supply more?

4. On which other Earth-like planet is CO2 a “greenhouse gas?”

5. If “Global Warming” (meaning anthropogenic) is happening, why have the key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers? How many times were they NOT caught (not asking for a number).

6. If GW is true, why have they again changed the name? Now, it’s “Climate Change?”

7. On that note, what exact change are they denoting, or (as we’ve seen) do they squeal loudly at any supposed anomaly? Obama recently blamed ISIS attacks on “Climate Change” with ZERO scientific support.

8. If GW is true, what is the proper average temperature that we should be experiencing now, and on what basis is that number calculated?

9. The current “deviation” of temperature is statistically insignificant. That is, it’s well within the plus/minus 3% of a GOOD (that is, not cooked) statistical sample of temperatures. As we’ve seen, we DO have a cooked study, so the margin of error is higher.

10. If GW is true, why won’t the IPCC release details of its model so other climatologists can examine its validity?

11. How, exactly, will paying a tax to Al Gore’s “Carbon Exchange” in England save the planet? The exchange was moved from Chicago after that exchange’s political connections were exposed.

I have more, but how’s that for a start?

Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype

As can be seen, the conversation initially took an erratic path. A bit of back and forth got it back on track, resulting in an excellent response from Dan. I will diagnose pertinent parts of the conversation in turn.

1. Dan posted a short chuckle and a comment concerning some history, likely not relevant: “Don’t forget the 60s – 70s scare about Global Cooling, and the Population Bomb.”

I responded and attempted to get the discussion back on line: “Unfortunately, anthropogenic global warming is no scare. Some are beginning to be impacted already. Check your friends who live in the Marshall Islands.” And I posted a link to the problem in the Marshall Islands.

2. Dan asked, “What’s the proof this is man-caused? CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air, so it can’t be that.”

I was confused about what Dan was referring to. I was unable to find the antecedent to “this” as in “this is man-caused.” I was also confused about the statement that CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air. It is not.

I asked Dan if that was his argument. He replied that was 1/12 of it. At that point I put in some ground work to restart the dialog, and Dan responded with his 11 points. I will go over those points, each in turn.

The first point is unnumbered:

You call yourself (or associate yourself with) a skeptic. However, your response appears mostly emotional:

Yes, I do call myself a skeptic. To do otherwise would be disingenuous. I will leave it to readers to determine whether my response is mostly emotional.

1. The burden is on one positing an assertion to support it. Proving a negative is not required, if it’s even possible (e.g. prove there is no God).

Dan’s point is well made. Proving the absence of AGW is proving a negative. A couple of points in response:

The original Skeptical Analysis post is not about proving the absence of AGW. It is about people who claim AGW does not exist and the methods they employ. Emphatically, the post is about the methods they employ.

My position is that AGW is real, and I am prepared to demonstrate good evidence it is.

2. When you say “the climate scientists,” it implies those are the only ones, or the only ones that matter. That is not the case. There is a huge and growing group of climatologists who see huge flaws in “Global Warming.”

When I say “the climate scientists” I do intend to imply these are the scientists who count. My observation is that there are relatively few actual scientists who doubt the reality of AGW, while the vast majority of climate scientist agree with the reality of AGW.

Dan asserts, “There is a huge and growing group of climatologists who see huge flaws in ‘Global Warming.'” He needs to justify that statement in a manner that does not require redefinition of the word “huge” and maybe even the word “growing.”

Here is a (possibly incomplete) list of scientific organizations taking the position that AGW is real:

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Medical Association
  • American Meteorological Society
  • American Physical Society
  • The Geological Society of America

Discount the AMA if you want, but the remaining on this list involve studies directly related to AGW. Add to that the United States National Academy of Sciences, some others, and 197 other organizations listed at this link.

Anticipating that Dan will respond to the foregoing that science is not a democracy, and scientific fact is not determined by majority vote, I will remind him that he is the one who introduced the argument incorporating the words “huge and growing group of climatologists.”

3. You did not refute the evidence I did give. Why should I supply more?

I did not refute the evidence that Dan gave, because I was unable to locate said evidence in Dan’s comments. At this point I ask Dan to remind me what evidence he posted.

4. On which other Earth-like planet is CO2 a “greenhouse gas?”

Dan has me there. I am unable to answer that question. Neither am I able to answer the question, “What’s the average weight of the American bald eagle.?Both are equally relevant. I will be permitted to bypass this point of Dan’s.

5. If “Global Warming” (meaning anthropogenic) is happening, why have the key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers? How many times were they NOT caught (not asking for a number).

Two points in response to this:

  • Dan needs to demonstrate the factuality of his premise that “key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers.”
  • This is not a statement, rather a question. Dan needs to employ a statement of fact, supposed or otherwise, rather than ask a question. For example: “Key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers.” Then there will be something to debate. What Dan is doing is what I discussed in the original post. People who deny AGW are not presenting factual arguments. Instead, they are putting forward peripheral issues, many of which do not bear on the validity of AGW.

Regarding that last, if opponents of the science behind AGW want to prove their case, they have ample opportunity to do so. All they need to do is to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and other such gases do not trap heat from solar radiation in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration of these gases is not increasing and has not been steadily increasing for the past 50 years (and more).
  • Human activity is not contributing significantly to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Events beyond human control are alone responsible for the warming.
  • The temperature of the combination atmosphere and hydrosphere is not increasing and has not been increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • The increase in global temperatures has had little or no impact on human well-being.

That last point may be superfluous to my argument. My argument is that the AGW is real. It’s impact on human well-being is another matter.

6. If GW is true, why have they again changed the name? Now, it’s “Climate Change?”

See above. This is a question and not an argument. Also, were it posed as a statement of some kind, it would still not be relevant.

7. On that note, what exact change are they denoting, or (as we’ve seen) do they squeal loudly at any supposed anomaly? Obama recently blamed ISIS attacks on “Climate Change” with ZERO scientific support.

A statement this time, but again one that is not pertinent. Dan needs to elaborate on the statement before I can attempt to address it. How about some actual quotes?

8. If GW is true, what is the proper average temperature that we should be experiencing now, and on what basis is that number calculated?

Again a question and not a statement. Dan needs to argue his point. That aside, these two questions will be addressed later in this post.

9. The current “deviation” of temperature is statistically insignificant. That is, it’s well within the plus/minus 3% of a GOOD (that is, not cooked) statistical sample of temperatures. As we’ve seen, we DO have a cooked study, so the margin of error is higher.

Point number 9 and finally a statement of fact. If Dan will be so kind as to supply some references I will check them out.

10. If GW is true, why won’t the IPCC release details of its model so other climatologists can examine its validity?

Again a question. If I may be permitted to offer assistance, I recommend this point be posed as a statement. For example: “The IPCC refuses to release details of its model. This does not allow other climatologists to assess the validity of the model.”

As it is, Dan’s point 10 is a classic example of “begging the question.” The question is posed in such a manner as to state a conclusion, the conclusion being that the IPCC refuses to release details of its model. It could be the IPCC has refused to release these details, but Dan does not state that, and, further, he does not cite any references to support this in the event it is factual.

11. Dan’s point 11 is again an irrelevant question. The fact is that Al Gore is a politician and does not remotely resemble a scientist. His views on the matter have no bearing on the validity of AGW. The absurdity of associating Al Gore and the validity of AGW is exemplified in a collection of memes I posted a few months ago. Here is one.

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

The summary of Dan’s excellently-composed comments is that he has followed the example of those I sought to pillory in my original post. Tom Vittrup wanted to portray AGW as baseless, and his means was to post an irrelevant story from The Washington Post in 1922. Breitbart News Network wanted to portray AGW as baseless, and their means was to post a fact-deficient item about scientists cooking data.  The Washington Times wanted to portray AGW as baseless and their means was to imply NASA was hiding data. None of the sources I presented in my previous post made any effort to disqualify AGW using scientific data. This despite the excellent opportunity to do so by demonstrating any of the cases I mentioned previously (disprove carbon dioxide traps solar energy, etc.).

That dead horse now well beaten, I do need to address a very legitimate point made by Dan. That is, I should not only charge others to disprove the validity of AGW, I need to demonstrate its factual basis. This cannot be done exhaustively in just a few paragraphs, so I will, instead, demonstrate some points bearing on the basis of AGW. I have previously posted on this matter, and I will refer back to that post rather than completely rehash the issue. I said this:

What is it about otherwise intelligent people that bubbles the stupid to the top the moment they get the hots for public office. Do they feel the need to plumb the depths of the electorate gene pool? Possibly.

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush was commenting on the science behind AGW:

“Look, first of all, the climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on, this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you,” he said.

“It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t even have a conversation about it. The climate is changing, and we need to adapt to that reality,” he said.

At that point I started a discussion of the science behind AGW. I will go over a few points that post touched. First, is carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere rising? The answer is yes. The data plot below is called the Keeling Curve.


The Keeling Curve is a graph which plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since 1958. It is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii that began under the supervision of Charles David Keeling. Keeling’s measurements showed the first significant evidence of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Many scientists credit Keeling’s graph with first bringing the world’s attention to the current increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Charles David Keeling, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, was the first person to make frequent regular measurements of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, taking readings at the South Pole and in Hawaii from 1958 onwards.

Examine this data plot. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising since Keeling started making measurements in 1958. The wiggles in the curve reflect fluctuations in CO2 concentration due to the greening of foliage in the Northern Hemisphere. This planet’s northern hemisphere holds the abundance of green plants, and during the spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere these plants suck up a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The drop in the concentration of CO2 is plainly visible in the plot. In the Northern Hemisphere’s cold season deciduous plants drop their leaves, and CO2  absorption decreases (evergreens keep sucking up CO2). Also, the leaves that have dropped during the current season and in previous seasons continue to return their carbon content back to the atmosphere as CO2.

If there were no decades long increase in CO2 concentration, this curve would be nearly horizontal except for the yearly fluctuation shown. This is called a steady state condition. The continual rise demonstrates the atmosphere is not in steady state.

Further, observe the scale of the rise. It starts at 320 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 and approaches 400 ppm in the current decade. The concentration in October 2014 was 396.21 ppm, and in October 2015 it was 398.70 ppm. This was last updated 7 December of this year. This is a more than 50-year trend. Were it to be extrapolated back in a naive manner, then a few centuries ago there would have been no CO2 in the atmosphere. This is obviously not the fact, so at some point in the past the CO2 began its inexorable rise. Here is a plot obtained from ice core data:


Data source: Reconstruction from ice cores. Credit: NOAA

The same source notes the November 2015 concentration was 402.23 ppm. The CO2 concentration has fluctuated wildly the past 400,000 years, but since about 1960 it has remained higher than it ever was before during that period.

So much for CO2 concentrations. What about the average yearly temperatures? Here is a plot of these temperatures for the past 135 years. The Earth has been growing warmer during the time the CO2 has been making its sharp rise.


What about the argument that other factors besides human activity are to blame? What could these be?

  • Variations in Earth’s orbit
  • Volcanic activity
  • Fluctuations in solar activity

The following plots are from a Bloomberg site titled “What’s Really Warming the World.”




In all three of these the heavy black line is global temperature, and the relatively horizontal, wiggly line is the phenomenon against which the temperature is tracked. In all cases it is obvious Earth’s temperature is tracking none of these. Readers are encouraged to visit the Bloomberg link and get a better view of the plots.

Besides these, I have data and scientific principles to demonstrate the relationship between human activity and the recent rise in average global temperatures. Many of these have been pulled into a presentation from earlier this year for The North Texas Skeptics. I am always happy to explain and to expand on any of the points. I will attempt to do so by means of a follow-up post in order to give the matter as thorough a treatment as I can make it.

Keep reading.

The Age Of Embarrassment

I have neither the time nor the energy to scout out all the topics discussed on this blog. I rely on a network of friends, and some not so friendly, to remind me which way the earth rotates. Much thanks to all.

Here is something forwarded by a classmate from high school:

From: Tom Vittrup

Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 8:27 AM

The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consulate, at Bergen , Norway.

Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone.Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds. Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt the sea will rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable.

* * * * * * * * *

I must apologize.

I neglected to mention that this report was from November 2, 1922, as reported by the AP and published in The Washington Post – 93 years ago.

This must have been caused by the Model T Ford’s emissions or possibly from horse and cattle flatulence?

I don’t know who Tom Vittrup is, but I suspect his motive for forwarding this. It’s a dig at anybody who accepts the science behind anthropogenic global warming. Tom Vittrup believes, and he wants others to believe, that the science is flawed. The reasoning goes like this:

  • Scientists have been sounding the alarm over global warming for only the past 50 years.
  • Although the Industrial revolution of the 19th century kicked off use of fossil fuels on a grand scale, their use did not shift into high gear until the advent of the automobile, little more than 100 years ago.
  • Symptoms of global warming were beginning to be manifest as far back as 1922, well before Saudi Arabia tapped into its vast oil reserves.
  • Conclusion: If global warming is happening now, it must be due to something that has been going on for more than 100 years.

Setting aside for the moment whether this argument has a leg to stand on, it’s interesting to note a number of other things.

First, there was such a news item in The Washington Post. Here is a clipping.


Second, Tom neglected to put the Post article into perspective. The article is based on an item in Monthly Weather Review, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. Here is the original article from the AMS:



[Under date of October 10 1922, the American consul at Bergan Norway, submitted the following report to the State Department, Washington, D.C.]

The Arctic seems to be warming up. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers who sail the seas about Spitzbergen and the eastern Arctic, all point to a radical change in climatic conditions, and hitherto unheard-of high temperatures in that part of the earth’s surface.

In August, 1922, the Norwegian Department of Commerce sent an expedition to Spitzbergen and Bear island under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania. Its purpose was to survey and chart the lands adjacent to the Norwegian mines on those islands, take soundings of the adjacent waters, and make other oceanographic investigations.

Dr. Hoel, who has just returned, reports the location of hitherto unknown coal deposits on the eastern shores of Advent Bay—deposits of vast extent and superior quality. This is regarded as of first importance, as so far most of the coal mined by the Norwegian companies on those islands has not been of the best quality.

The oceanographic observations have, however, been even more interesting. Ice conditions were exceptional. In fact, so little ice has never before been noted. The expedition all but established a record, sailing as far north as 81° 29′ in ice-free water. This is the farthest north ever reached with modern oceanographic apparatus.

the character of the waters of the great polar basin has heretofore been practically unknown. Dr. Hoel reports that he made a section of the Gulf Stream at 81° north latitude and took soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters. These show the Gulf Stream very warm, and it could be traced as a surface current till beyond the 81st parallel. The warmth of the waters makes it probable that the favorable ice conditions will continue for some time.

Later a section was taken of the Gulf Stream off Bear Island and off the Isfjord, as well as a section of the cold current that comes down along the west coast of Spitzbergen off the south cape.

In connection with Dr. Hoel’s report, it is of interest to note the unusually warm summer in Arctic Norway and the observations of Capt. Martin Ingebrigtsen, who has sailed the eastern Arctic for 54 years past. He says he first noted warmer conditions in 1918, that since that time it has steadily gotten warmer, and to-day the Arctic of that region is not recognizable as the same region of 1868 to 1917.

Many old landmarks are so changed as to be unrecognizable. Where formerly great masses of ice were found, there are now often moraines, accumulations of earth and stones. At many points where glaciers formerly extended far into the sea they have entirely disappeared.

The change in temperature, says Captain Ingebrigtsen, has also brought about great change in the flora and fauna of the Arctic. This summer he sought for white fish in Spitzbergen waters. Formerly great shoals of them were found there. This year he saw none, although he visited all the old fishing grounds.

There were few seal in Spitzbergen waters this year, the catch being far under the average. This, however, did not surprise the captain. He pointed out that formerly the waters about Spitzbergen held an even summer temperature of about 3° Celsius; this year recorded temperatures up to 15°, and last winter the ocean did not freeze over even on the north coast of Spitzbergen.

With the disappearance of white fish and seal has come other life in these waters. This year herring in great shoals were found along the west coast of Spitzbergen, all the way from the fry to the veritable great herring. Shoals of smelt were also met with.

The Snopes site provides additional information.

As interesting as this nearly century-old article might be from a modern perspective, however, it isn’t substantive evidence either for or against the concept of anthropogenic global warming. As documented elsewhere, the warming phenomena observed in 1922 proved to be indicative only of a local event in Spitzbergen, not a trend applicable to the Arctic as a whole.

The link is to an article by Tom Goreau from 8 January 2010 titled Long Term Arctic Ice Trends and Global Warming:

Those who seek to deny global warming constantly use transparently obvious tricks, selecting data from a single time, a single place, or both, to deny the larger long-term global patterns. This is easily done as climate is constantly fluctuating, so picking out the mean patterns and trends requires that one integrates the data over the largest time and space scales possible. So if one dishonestly wants to misrepresent the larger patterns, one can always find a particular place at a particular time that does not agree with the all the rest averaged together. This is sometimes referred to as the “It’s a cold day in Wagga Wagga” approach, and is repeatedly used by the climate change deniers to fool people who haven’t looked at the data themselves. The changes in Arctic Ice are no exception!

Good data mapping the entire Arctic Ice Cap from space satellites is fairly recent, only since 1979, but the trends are absolutely clear:

Tom Goreau provides the following chart:


He further states:

But note that there are year to year fluctuations of about 1 million square kilometers, due to annual weather variations. These spatial variations have been used by deniers who simply look at changes since 2007, an exceptionally warm year in the Arctic, to suggest that the Arctic is cooling down! In other words they are simply picking ONE point that falls a bit off the trend of ALL the data to deny the long-term trend.

Another good example of this is a recent posting of the newspaper version of a report made in 1922, that there was much less sea ice than normal at a few places in that year:

And he cites the example of the 1922 MWR report. Tom Goreau’s report contains additional data charts, and I have retained a copy in case the original ever gets moved. Readers are encouraged to read the report and to do their own fact checking.

Snopes concludes:

As interesting as this nearly century-old article might be from a modern perspective, however, it isn’t substantive evidence either for or against the concept of anthropogenic global warming. As documentedelsewhere, the warming phenomena observed in 1922 proved to be indicative only of a local event in Spitzbergen, not a trend applicable to the Arctic as a whole.

All of this is fairly recent. Trying to run this story to its source I came across a reference in the Washington Times from 2007:

Inside the Beltway

– The Washington Times – Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Before Gore

D.C. resident John Lockwood was conducting research at the Library of Congress and came across an intriguing Page 2 headline in the Nov. 2, 1922 edition of The Washington Post: “Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt.”

The 1922 article, obtained by Inside the Beltway, goes on to mention “great masses of
ice have now been replaced by moraines of earth and stones,” and “at many points
well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared.”

“This was one of several such articles I have found at the Library of Congress for the
1920s and 1930s,” says Mr. Lockwood. “I had read of the just-released NASA estimates,
that four of the 10 hottest years in the U.S. were actually in the 1930s, with 1934 the
hottest of all.”

Worth pondering

Reacting yesterday to word that certain European governments and officials are
suddenly trying to abandon their costly “global warming” policies, Royal Astronomical
Society fellow Benny Peiser, of the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University
in Great Britain, recalls the teachings of Marcus Aurelius: “The object of life is not to be
on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

The Washington Times is not to be confused with The Washington Post. The Post publishes Pulitzer-winning journalism, while the Times is an organ of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon:

The Washington Times is a daily broadsheet published at 3600 New York Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., United States. It was founded in 1982 by the founder of the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon and was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the church, until 2010 when it was purchased directly by a group led by Moon.

The paper is noted for supporting conservative causes, including creationism and denial of climate science.

What, then, to make of this thinly-disguised gem of propaganda? A bigger question is why does a considerable element in American society put forward items like this in opposition to some basic science? My answer is this means of persuasion is all there is. If a legitimate argument opposed to global warming were available, then that would be put forward. To date, none has—a compelling indication that none exists.

Andrew Breitbart (1969 – 2012) was a writer for The Washington Times. He founded the conservative Breitbart News Network,, which carries on Breitbart’s cause. One such cause is opposition to climate science. The conversation is concerted and strident:

Global Warming ‘Fabricated’ by NASA and NOAA


Scientists at two of the world’s leading climate centres – NASA and NOAA – have been caught out manipulating temperature data to overstate the extent of the 20th century “global warming”.

The evidence of their tinkering can clearly be seen at Real Science, where blogger Steven Goddard has posted a series of graphs which show “climate change” before and after the adjustments.

When the raw data is used, there is little if any evidence of global warming and some evidence of global cooling. However, once the data has been adjusted – ie fabricated by computer models –  20th century ‘global warming’ suddenly looks much more dramatic.

This is especially noticeable on the US temperature records. Before 2000, it was generally accepted – even by climate activists like NASA’s James Hansen – that the hottest decade in the US was the 1930s.

As Hansen himself said in a 1989 report:

In the U.S. there has been little temperature change in the past 50 years, the time of rapidly increasing greenhouse gases — in fact, there was a slight cooling throughout much of the country.

However, Hansen subsequently changed his tune when, sometime after 2000, the temperatures were adjusted to accord with the climate alarmists’ fashionable “global warming” narrative. By cooling the record-breaking year of 1934, and promoting 1998 as the hottest year in US history, the scientists who made the adjustments were able suddenly to show 20th century temperatures shooting up – where before they looked either flat or declining.

But as Goddard notes, the Environmental Protection Agency’s heatwave record makes a mockery of these adjustments. It quite clearly shows that the US heat waves of the 1930s were of an order of magnitude greater than anything experienced at any other time during the century – far more severe than those in the 1980s or 1990s which were no worse than those in the 1950s.

For some reason this headline-shattering news from Breitbart failed to clear the fold in such publications as The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. It could be these front-line news sources are part of the global conspiracy of scientists promoting global warming for the sake of sucking up grant money. Or it could be these publications are concerned with printing what is true rather than what is sensational. One publication that is not holding back is The Washington Times. The headline reads:

And there is more.

The preceding excerpts depict an ongoing campaign to mine fringes of the global warming story and to paint a picture at odds with the facts. A coarse reading of various such references finds little in substance of fact. The adversaries of climate science bring to mind the creationist movement of the past 90 years. Lacking any valid supporting research, the creationists manufacture controversies without basis and generate more thunder than lightning. And they wage a constant war of fanciful pleadings and anecdotal irrelevancies.

It’s a world foreign to real science. It’s a world of purported intrigue and imagined motives. It’s a world of pronouncing baldly what is obviously untrue. And—like schoolboys kept after class—passing amusing stories around the Internet.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Wednesday is the day to review movies that are not all that bad. Here’s one.

This is Scene of the Crime from 1949 and starring Van Johnson as police homicide detective Mike Conovan. It’s from MGM, directed by Roy Rowland with a script by Charles Schnee. The story is based on Smashing the Bookie Gang Marauders by John Bartlow Martin. I don’t have a copy of the book, so it’s not going to be possible to tell how well Schnee followed the story.

This is a police procedural in the strictest sense, with Detective Conovan working the case from beginning to end. A few minutes in I was getting to think this was going to be the inspiration for Madigan, about a cop having trouble with his loving wife while living a dangerous existence.

The first scene opens with experience police detective Ed Monigan stumbling onto a gang heist and getting gunned down in the street.


This interrupts Detective Conovan’s plans for a date with Gloria Conovan (Arlene Dahl). A lot of this happens in the movie. Again, a reflection on Madigan.


I’m not going to get into the plot details—just a taste of the dramatic theme. Throughout the Conovans are at odds over Detective Conovan’s intense dedication to his work. His dangerous work. Here Mr. and Mrs. Conovan set out on a date only to find local hood called Sleeper popping up in the back seat. Don’t get too excited about Sleeper. He’s playing footsie with the police and winds up dead a few scenes later.


Conovan zeros in on dance girl Lili (Gloria DeHaven) as somebody who may have information on the gang. He romances her, all the while keeping Mrs. Conovan informed of what he’s doing.


It turns out Lili is deeper in than first suspected, having fingered Conovan for a hit. It turns out that Conovan’s partner Fred Piper (John McIntire) intercepts the message meant for Conovan and gets the chop, instead.

Conovan wants to go after the gang with guns blazing, but his Captain, A.C. Forster (Leon Ames), nixes the idea. Conovan resigns the force in protest, but takes back his badge and gun when he finds out that Piper has been killed.

The cops get the drop on the gang, and a massive gunfight erupts. The gangsters do not survive.


Conovan’s marriage almost doesn’t survive, either. Gloria has announced she is leaving and going back home to her parents. Conovan was supposed to see her off at the airport, but arrives too late. The plane is already departing.

Not to worry. Gloria decided to stay, after all. They embrace as the plane pulls away. The Conovans are going to have an enduring marriage. Unlike Madigan, who winds up getting killed.


I obtained technical details from Wikipedia and screen shots from Turner Classic Movies. I don’t spot any glaring technical flaws in this production.

The plot gets started quickly and moves without letup. Acting is on par, with a great performance by DeHaven. Sex-on-a-stick. Direction and cinematography are top notch, as well. About the only trouble with this plot is believability.

This is not Dragnet. Unrealistic settings have been introduced to hype the story. In particular, the gangster’s deathbed confession, which clears the deceased Ed Monigan of suspicion of corruption, is uncharacteristic of the ruthless character portrayed. In the story a lot is made of the interplay between cops and informants. The depiction is like a dance of death, with the stoolie and the cop taking turns at the fatal well. This does not appear to be true to life. But then, I’m being picky.

Keep reading. I may put a halt to the Wednesday movies during January while I tackle another project.

Politicians Unclear

One of a continuing series


Naturally I thought this was some kind of joke. People post a lot of stuff on Facebook, and some of it is way around the bend. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order.

Holy shit! This guy is for real:

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s health care debate took an unexpected turn at the State Capitol, where a lawmaker who is also a doctor argued that access to health care can be a bad thing.

Representative Mike Kennedy, a Republican from Alpine, made the comments in a Health Reform Task Force meeting, in reaction to a story from another doctor.

Doctor Kyle Jones told the legislature’s Health Reform Task Force about a neighbor who was in a car crash. That neighbor suffered a rare response to pain medicine called toxic encephalopathy. The condition has caused memory loss, seizures and depression, according to Jones.

“Sometimes access actually can mean harm,” said Representative Mike Kennedy, a family physician.

To paraphrase the late actor Slim Pickens:

Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the best explanation I have ever heard as to why we should not send ambulances to crash sites.

Yes, making sure citizens of this country receive prompt medical attention is a danger to their health.

Yes, enacting legislation that makes it possible for more citizens to have access to health insurance represents a danger to their health.

Bear with me. My head is somewhere lost in the desert, and I must pause till it come back to me.

It’s back.

As readers know, I often chide politicians, and even those aspiring to political office, for their brash inanity, assuming that is not a redundancy. My caution is the politicians are not the root problem. The problem is we. We are the ones voting for these people. We are the ones paying their salaries. If there really is a God in Heaven we can only hope this one sin, above all, will be forgiven.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

What Things Cost


See the photo above. How do you like my shirt? I just got it yesterday, and it was a real bargain. Here’s what it cost:

$134 billion (1.02 trillion 2015 dollars) including:

2,251 aircraft: 1,737 to hostile action, and 514 in accidents. 110 of the losses were helicopters and the rest fixed-wing, including 31 B-52 bombers (17 in combat)

58,300 United States military killed or missing

I only paid $8, plus tax. Quite a bargain. Here’s how it went. We went Sunday night to the Old Navy store near my house and purchased a number of items that were on sale (Christmas season). The shirt was $8. Plus tax. I checked the label. It was made in Vietnam. Not North Vietnam. Not South Vietnam. Vietnam.

That’s what the United States got for $1.02 trillion and over 58,000 killed. The government we sacrificed all that wealth and blood to undermine prevailed in the end. And we are now doing business with them. It is essentially the same government we fought to defeat 40 to 50 years ago, although it has undergone some transformation in past decades:

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, along with China, Cuba, and Laos, is one of the world’s four remaining single-party socialist states officially espousing communism. Its current state constitution, 2013 Constitution, asserts the central role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in all organs of government, politics and society. The General Secretary of the Communist Party performs numerous key administrative and executive functions, controlling the party’s national organization and state appointments, as well as setting policy. Only political organizations affiliated with or endorsed by the Communist Party are permitted to contest elections in Vietnam. These include the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and worker and trade unionist parties. Although the state remains officially committed to socialism as its defining creed, its economic policies have grown increasingly capitalist, with The Economist characterizing its leadership as “ardently capitalist communists”.

For some reason, the above neglects to mention the DPRK (North Korea). What “ardently capitalist communists” means is that this is the same dictatorial government from 1975, only now they are open for business. More than anything else, that is why peaceful relations exist between our government and that of Vietnam.

In the end it never was a matter of “freedom and democracy.” The government of South Vietnam, which we sacrificed so much to prop up, was never a democratic and free government. It was dictatorial and oppressive in its own way. That way included a willingness to deal with the United States.

We saw the same thing with the People’s Republic of China. We estimate U.N. forces killed 400,000 PRC soldiers in the Korean War, but 20 years later our president visited the PRC and opened commerce with the communist country. Today the PRC is one of the largest suppliers of our manufactured goods. And the PRC is still an oppressive communist regime that executes people opposing the government. The difference now is that the PRC is open for business.

We are seeing a similar thing with Cuba, one of the few communist governments left on the planet. After 55 years of refusing to do business with Cuba, the Obama administration is working to end the disconnect. So far, it’s still the oppressive government of yesterday, still putting people in jail who present a threat to government power. Only now, there is some consideration for opening Cuba for business. It makes a difference.

But I got my shirt. In fact, I bought a number of them. They were cheap. $8 for this one, $12 for some made of heavier fabric. Plus tax. Made by Vietnamese workers, likely working for what would not pass as union wages in the United States:

The Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) is the sole national trade union center in Vietnam. It was founded July 29, 1929 as the Red Workers’ General Union in Northern Vietnam, and extended into the entire country after the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975.

VGCL’s role, as shown on the Vietnamese side of its website, includes “responsibility to implement the Party’s directions and policies and to contribute to the Party’s development”. It is under the oversight of the Communist Party: “The Party oversights the way VGCL implements the Party’s directions and policies”

All trade unions in Vietnam are required to affiliate to the VGCL, and the VGCL is one of the mass movements of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front. Dang Ngoc Tung, the VGCL president, is a member of the Communist Party of VietnamCentral Committee.

Things may change:

HONG KONG — A pact between Washington and Hanoi to strengthen labor unions inVietnam could give workers more bargaining power, but the impact will depend on howVietnam carries out the agreement, longtime Vietnamese government advisers and other specialists said on Thursday.

The side agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership calls for Vietnam to pass legislation that would legalize independent unions, allow them to strike and let them seek help from foreign labor organizations like the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

The overall trade agreement faces a contentious debate in Congress. The Obama administration is aiming to win over Democrats who have expressed concern about the potential for free trade to shift jobs to countries where unions and workers’ rights are weak.

Vietnam’s Constitution enshrines the right of workers to strike and engage in organized protests, said Le Dang Doanh, a prominent economist and a former top official at a government research organization in Hanoi. But until now, Vietnam has adopted few laws to codify and protect those rights.

In the mean time I got my shirt. For $8. Plus tax.

On another note there are those running for office, some already in office, pushing for the use of American military force against renegade fighters in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. They need to go back and review how much things really cost. And what we pay for them.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


A previous Quiz Question went like this:

The problem is stated:

A scam artist hopes to make a profit by buying and selling gold at different altitudes for the same price per weight. Should the scam artist buy or sell at a higher altitude? Explain.

The concept being studied here is the variation of gravitational attraction with respect to distance from the center of the Earth. Don’t solve the problem. It really is quite simple. Instead, answer the Quiz Question of the week:

What’s wrong with this problem?

The answer is that gold is weighed using a balance scale, and gravity would not have any effect. Suppose the Federal Reserve banks did use a spring scale to weigh the gold. Suppose a crook figured to purchase gold at one altitude and sell it at another. Would this work?


Post your answer as a comment below. I will provide the answer Friday if nobody supplies the correct answer by then.


The answer is that a scam artist could, in principle, make money by purchasing gold in Denver and selling it in San Francisco, provided the gold is weighed using a spring scale. A spring scale does not balance the gold against another object, so gravity will have an effect.

Fortunately, gravity is not the only factor working. There is also buoyancy due to the density of the air.

Here are the critical numbers:

Gravity – San Francisco = 32.174, Denver = 32.159

Density of air – San Francisco = 23.77, Denver = 20.48

These density figures are not in in g/cc, so converting them gives:

Density of air – San Francisco = 0.001225, Denver = 0.001056

The effect of gravitational difference would be 0.0004662 of the weight of the gold. This would show up on a spring balance.

The density of gold is about 19 grams per cubic centimeter. This means that the change in buoyancy will be 0.000008895 the weight of the gold.

Even accounting for air buoyancy, gravity still wins out. A scammer could buy low in Denver and sell low in San Francisco.